Let’s be honest, worth 650 million dollars, J.K. Rowling can do anything she wants for the rest of her life but work. Yet, she’s decided to take us back to the Harry Potter universe not only once but even five times. While Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them taught us that magical creatures are as cute as we could imagine, Eddie Redmayne is adorably disarming as Newt Scamander and that Alison Sudol is still alive, The Crimes of Grindelwald, the second of the spin-offs, simply presents itself as an obvious box office hit with Jude Law in perfectly tailored pants.
The story starts in 1927, only few months after Newt blew Gellert Grindelwald’s (Johnny Depp) cover. In the meantime, this infamous wizard escapes in rather spectacular way, just as he promised, and starts gathering his followers that want to help him with carrying out rather arguable plan to rid the world of non-magical people. The only person that is able to defeat him is a wizard, who used to be particularly close to Grindelwald – Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law). However, the Hogwarts’s principal-to-be cannot (or doesn’t want to) do it himself so he needs help from his former student, Newt Scamander, a geeky “magizoologist” (Eddie Redmayne). The whole situation is rather bad news for not only the Ministry of Magic, including Newt’s brother (Callum Turner) and his Lestrange fiancée (Zoe Kravitz), but also for Newt himself. He has a basement full of beasts and is more interested in chasing his niffler, and, obviously, Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), rather than a wizardry psycho. Meanwhile, love between Queenie (Allison Sudol) and charismatic non-magical Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) is having some trouble, and apparently another “boy who lived”, Credence (Ezra Miller) is searching for his birth mother with help from a circus performer Nagini (Claudia Kim).
Although, it may seem like both a plot is full of nonstop intriguing action or it’s a random soap opera episode, in fact, in The Crimes what is actually important happens only in the prologue and the finale. The rest is staffed with scenes insufficiently contributing to the story line (what are those “crimes” anyway?). After so much being said about Nagini, she appears as practically only a background and says about three lines more than when she was (or rather will be) Voldemort’s beloved companion pet. Let’s just hope that more is being saved for later.
It’s easy to spot inspiration of politics of the interwar period, not mentioning the modern times, in the Grindelwald’s rhetoric. He wants the wizards to get their rightful place in the world order. Depp as the dark lord of the magical twenties, who easily combines cruelty and charm, is suitable, yet, Depp as part of the Harry Potter world feels like less satisfying choice. Meanwhile, it’s difficult to imagine better person to play young Dumbledore than Jude Law. Seductive, self-confident, but also ambivalent. Every time he appears on the screen, Gryffindor scores 100 points.
The Crimes presents itself then as rather disappointing. We already know it’s not Harry Potter, but what has become out of this one and only beloved by millions universe has the same sickness as any other geeky piece of culture – it was turned into a franchise. Yet, Rowling still has some shocking plot twists under her sleeve. And you all know – it’s Rowling, it’s going to be interesting and the exciting fans’ speculations will flood the internet. Let’s just hope that we won’t have to wait for the actually good part to come in the very end.